ICT and SNIPS Magazine recently sponsored a webinar on the Construction Labor Productivity: How These Construction Managers Use Labor Tracking to Save Money, Build Success.
We had Guy Gast, President of The Waldinger Corporation – Iowa Division, and David Francis, CTO of ICT on hand for a discussion on this topic. In addition, Guy discussed the findings and objectives of recent reports issued by the New Horizons Foundation and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA).
Interviewed by Emell Adolphus, Editor of SNIPS Magazine, this four-part series covers many of the highlights of their discussion divided into the following topics:
- Part 1: Benefits of Productivity Tracking
- Part 2: Adopting and the ROI of Technology in the Field
- Part 3: Process and Best Practices
- Part 4: Impact of Implementing COVID-19 Protocols
Part 2: Adopting and the ROI of Technology in the Field
What sort of criteria do you think is important when it comes to adopting technology like ICT Tracker into the field? What do you measure as a president and as the leadership?
Guy: Number one: I can’t do business without it. That is critical. Number two, is it easy? We say in our service businesses “make it easy”, and we are referring to making it easy for our customer. And in technology, that’s critical to me. How easy is it for our customer? That’s the field foreman. Is it easy for him to use? Does it require him to do anything more? Because if I don’t make it easy for him, it won’t be effective. Number three, do I need it because I need to retain or recruit talent. Let’s face it, a lot of young foreman and a lot of young people in our industry rely on and value technology to do business so if I want to pretend that we don’t need it, I have a whole cast of folks out there saying, Guy, I want to be the cool place that has it.
It’s not just about the traditional return on investment. Some of this is a return on the human capital. I’ve got a lot invested in quality talent, in field and office leadership, I need them to have great tools to work with. Additionally, do we have the ability in the company to support the technology?
We have other work processes that may be affected. If I am buying new technology, do I have the back of house support for it in accounting or purchasing or at other levels of the business? With technologies, you have got to say, “I have a whole different decision matrix or why would we buy or not buy it”?
David: The thing is you already have some of that technology in your shop, and in your offices and people just need to start leveraging it. That is the piece I have always seen over the years. There is a lot of cool tech out there, but you have to justify its cost. You must keep the young guy stimulated because you get them with some great ideas, and they want to just run a gun.
When I look at technology, it must have a plan, we need to have goal metrics, we need to have a champion to lead the process. If not, that is where these things die.
Guy: David, to your point, we have seen that the champion is important. You have also got to be in it for a while. Because it’s not just going to settle into work. You have got to have a follow-up plan, and you’ve got to have ongoing training, and programs and support. You must stay committed to the technology until you’ve got it etched in stone.
David: It’ll continue to change too, right?
Guy: Yeah, I like the way David thinks because I left out one key point. At some point you have to say, and I heard this from a guy years ago, are we getting more stuff up in the air? I mean, at the end of the day, the question is, did we get more stuff up in the air? Will the technology help me get there?
David: I think the biggest thing I’ve seen is all these silos of technology. With every contractor I’ve worked with, I just walk across the other side and ask, “What are you doing over there. And why are you doing that?” And discover we could use that, or it would be handy to have.
My last job in the field was to get the engineering department detailing and the shops working together. We are designing in a silo and must redraw and detail again. The fab shop would ask, “Why the heck did you build it like that?” Those are the simple things that you take for granted. You have all these tools and technology in place, but you don’t have your team working together.
I also ask, do we really have to have this product? Is its cool technology or is this really something that is going to improve our process? Is going to make us money? That is really what it is about, and my takeaway has always been, when people put estimates on the cost of technology, they need to understand the true cost for implementation.
You need to start treating it like a tool and tracking it like a tool, charge it up to a job like a tool. I mean, all those things, everyone acts like computers are these amazing, crazy things and but at the end of the day it is just a tool.
It is also a simple conversation to leverage technology you have already spent money on. You can spend money on technology that makes sense and not keep on trying to plug in a new widget to fix the problem of something that you’ve already got the answer to.